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Find Your Intellectual Capital

Posted on January 14, 2008

F. Xavier Castellanos (bio) asserts that self-imposed blinders are vital when beginning your research career.

 

This is a fabulous way to make a living if you're passionate about it. And so passionate people are passionate about lots of things, and they want to know about how to cure cancer and how to prevent schizophrenia and how to do everything almost all at once, and that's not going to work.

And so one of the things that I'm most grateful to Judy Rapoport for is that she and I had an explicit agreement. I said, "You're going to need to put blinkers on me, or blinders, and keep me focused because I know that in the candy store of the NIH, I'm going to want to do everything, and that's not smart." And she knew that before I did, but by explicit agreement we kept my career path focused on two or three things, and four or five things eventually, but not 100 and not across every disorder known to man, in a relatively focused way. And so it made it possible for me to gain a very clear identification, and then once that's there, then you have a kind of intellectual capital.

Once you have an identification as a credible, serious scientist, then it's possible to start expanding and reaching out to other colleagues who also have interests in finding where the interfaces are and extending yourself — possibly too much, in my case — but being able to do that with a bit more credibility. Whereas early on in a career, that's really a sign of a lack of mentoring, generally, or someone who's unwilling to accept mentoring because there's no way to reach a level of proficiency across a whole series of topics or fields or approaches.

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Excerpted from interview with researcher in September 2007.

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